Sunday, August 29, 2010

Come early, come often.

In honor of the first full week of classes at Brooklyn College, we will open at 8:00am, this Monday through Friday. We will also be open on Sundays until September 19th. After that, it's back to normal hours. We have a store of charming new employees, too. Plus, the charming old ones.

We have all your textbooks at the best prices, plus stationery and totebags. Also, rental. And haiku!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics, Michael Schumacher

It is officially rush. As the fall semester approaches and our book-army works at shuttling books back and forth all over the store, I find myself thinking about Will Eisner's work ethic. The man was seriously disciplined. Just reading about his life leaves me exhausted.

In addition to everything Eisner, this biography also generally charts comics from its Golden Age through the appearance of the CCA, underground comix and the invention of the graphic novel. Aside from early chapters about his childhood, the second half of A Dreamer's Life was most interesting for detailing Eisner the active, engaged old master. From the business acumen that protected his legacy to PS to his classes at SVA and many, many autobiographical masterpieces, Eisner had plans that begat plans. Also, the enthusiasm and backbone to work them all into fruition. Ultimately, the best part about him as a creator is how much of a fan he is. He never stopped learning about and loving comics.

So, pretty much the greatest. Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics will be in stores November 9, 2010.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gettin' em while they're young

The new big wave in kids books? Advertising. Not, like, ads in the books. But kids books that are ads. Clothing giant Ralph Lauren has released an e-book for the iPad about the exploits of eight young children called the RL Gang, and narrated by the dulcet pipes of crooner Harry Connick, Jr. Reading or listening to the story, children (with their parents' credit cards, presumably) will be able to touch the characters and click through to a page where they can buy the clothes the characters are wearing.

(Via Quill and Quire's post: Creepy Book Pimps Out Ralph Lauren Clothes to Tots.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Read a book, defend equality

In honor of the striking down of California's Proposition 8 by U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, Jacket Copy at the LA Times Book Review has posted a list of 20 classic works of gay literature. And while a tiny bit predictable and bland (I've never really liked Fun Home, and Well of Loneliness, while groundbreaking, is a bit of a snoozefest) there are also some truly stellar works and oddball picks too. Definitely worth checking out.

*20 classic works of gay literature

[Image from the Flickr feed of BlackHawkTraffic, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shakespeare & Co. DOES have a great sex books table

Just the other day I came across this photo of one of our sex tables in a Flickr set appropriately titled Shakespeare & Co. has a great sex books table! The table is at what I'm going to assume is our 716 Broadway location, which indeed does have the best sex table in the company (which we internally call the "Ron Jeremy Area"). The photo is by author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, whose book Fast Girls: Erotica for Women is right there in the foreground, and, to my everlasting regret, whose autograph I was too exhausted to obtain this year at BEA when she was signing copies of her book Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission. Oh well. There's always next year, right? Anyway, thanks Rachel for taking these pictures, and for making so many great books for us to put in the Ron Jeremy Area.

[Image from the Flickr of Rachel Kramer Bussel, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Kill your idols

Reading the Twitter feed of the Grand Central Library yesterday morning I came across this article/slide show in the Huffington Post: The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers. I clicked through hesitantly; I don't usually read the Huffington Post, and these sorts of lists tend to be nasty and bitchy and not really about literature at all. I prepared myself to disagree with most or all of this guy's picks. But ... wow. Writer Anis Shivani hits the nail on the head fifteen times in a row with really very jaw-dropping insight and clarity. Letting you know he's not messing around, the article begins: "Are the writers receiving the major awards and official recognition really the best writers today? Or are they overrated mediocrities with little claim to recognition by posterity?" and Shivani keeps cutting into literary mediocrity with a surgeon's scalpel. Terrific stuff.

Another fave quote: "The MFA writing system, with its mechanisms of circulating popularity and fashionableness, leans heavily on the easily imitable."

Check it. The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers.

[Image from the Flickr feed of Steve Rhodes, generously licensed under Creative Commons]

Monday, August 9, 2010

OH MY GOD RUN

You know what's just about the scariest thing in the world? Children's books in Japan in the 1970s apparently. Comics Alliance contributors David Brothers and Chris Sims dug up a bunch of amazing and utterly terrifying illustrations from Japanese kid's books from the 1970s from veteran manga artist Gojin Ishihara, aka "Japan's Norman Rockwell". All I have to say is wow. And I thought the illustrations in my D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths were bad ass.

There's many, many more macabre examples here at Pink Tentacle. As you glance through all these, remember these are all from children's literature. For extremely terrified children.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kraken, by China Miéville

Full disclosure: I've been looking forward to Kraken for a long time. Miéville has, by now, blossomed into a full-on weird-fiction rock star ("New Weird" is what we're calling it these days, but Miéville himself refers to his work as "weird fiction" and that is, and I, who often grapple with genre-naming conventions, find that 110% legit). His last novel, The City & The City, really knocked my socks off. He won an Arthur C. Clarke award for that one, or, as I call it, "The Prize I'm Pretty Sure They Invented To Give Margaret Atwood So She Would Get Something For The Handmaid's Tale After It Got Shafted For The Man Booker." If I'm not mistaken, that makes an absurd three for Miéville, which is more or less unheard of for such a young writer.

Did I mention he's got awesome tats and piercings? I'm pretty sure no piece has ever been published on Miéville that doesn't mention either that or the fact that he's apparently totally ripped. It's a requirement for these sorts of things.

So: Genre fiction superstar.

Kraken is, on the head of things, a book you've read before. "Urban Fantasy" conjures up a certain subset of the genre with its own rules and conventions. Boy or girl with wrenchingly normal life discovers that the world (or the city; or, more often, London) is, in fact, teeming with magical creatures and sorcerers and oddities of all sorts. Or just vampires, primarily, but that counts, too. At first I wasn't terribly impressed; what makes Kraken is how refreshingly light it is. I'll explain: Not "easy reading" light, and since this is a book with Miéville's name on the cover, it's got a sprawling, byzantine plot with an equally sprawling cast of characters. No, after the weighty downers of Perdido Street Station and The City & The City, Kraken unravels like a black comedy. It's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels with wizards. Kraken approaches the well-trod genre with a sense of humor, even though the tension -- and the novel is, essentially, a very long chase scene -- remains fairly taut throughout.

The maturity that Miéville displayed in The City & The City is in full effect here; his prose gets leaner and less purple with each outing. Compare to Perdido Street Station and you'll see what I mean. The pacing is well-handled, which is no feat juggling between three or four plots. Characterization could bear to be a little less lean, which is disappointing after the really excellent portrayal of the lead character in The City & The City, but one supposes that the author has an awful lot on his plate with so many characters running around magical London.

Not all is quite right: A few gags fall short; while the Tattoo's eerie weirdness is off-set, successfully, by the oddball goonishness of him and his henchmen (like I said, think "British gangster flick" and you've just about got it), the magically functioning Star Trek phaser probably would have been better off showing up for a scene and going away instead of popping up again, and again, and again. The three sub-plots that form the bulk of the narrative advance unevenly and don't quite meet up in any satisfactory way.

Still, Kraken solid all the way through, and is maybe most impressive for the dramatic shift in tone from what I, at least, was used to seeing from Miéville.

Did I mention he's like a Communist rock star with awesome tattoos? They won't let me publish this if I don't.

The iPad's Secret Bestsellers

Do you know what the bestselling ebook on the iPad is? Blonde and Wet, the Complete Story. Do you know what the iPad's bestseller list says is their bestseller? Not that. A couple people have recently noticed that the iPad's bestsellers lists, which were typically chock full of erotic titles, have now been apparently purged to present a more respectable face of ebook reading. Apple has issued no comment (although Steve Jobs is on record saying that he doesn't want "porn" on the iPad) although analysts are pretty much unanimous in saying it looks like Apple pulled the titles from their lists deliberately. They're still selling a whole lot of erotica (presumably), they're just not saying how much they're selling any more.

Come on, Apple! Why so prudish? Erotica is a perfectly legitimate literary genre. Stop selling books to people and then making them feel creepy for buying them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here's a cute little widget

International bookseller The Book Depository has a real-time map that shows you the purchases made from them. It's pretty fun to sit there and ... watch people buy stuff I guess? What! I know I do that all day at my job, but it's still interesting.

*Book Depository real-time sales map

Friday, August 6, 2010

Care to make a wager on that?

Last week we mentioned that the longlist for the Man Booker Prize had been announced. This week: UK bookmakers William Hill have announced the odds for the winners for those of you who can't resist the hot literary-prize betting action.

*William Hill: 2010 Man Booker Prize odds

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Books for people who like weird dares

There was an interesting column by Matthew Honan in Wired magazine a couple days ago about "stunt" books. These are the kinds of books wherein the author sets him or herself some usually preposterous goal like "I'm going to read the whole encyclopedia/OED/Bible in one sitting", and then writes about the wacky results. They're the literary cousins of stunt documentaries like Super Size Me. I think the phenomenon is quite a bit older than Honan supposes--he reckons it to be very recent--but agree that these kinds of books, while offering an immediate thrill of interest, are ultimately kind of irritating, in the way that a lot of the halfhearted spawn of Cod are--those books that look at history through the microscope of [x mundane thing, whether it's or bay leaf or plywood or women's undergarments]. Although all of the above are no more or less irritating than a lot of other nonfiction books that are basically little more than grotesquely inflated magazine articles. These genres are not inherently tainted; the only thing is that their success is diluted by authors hitching their wagons to successful trends in hopes of a nice fat advance. I guess the message is: don't write lazy books.

Wired: "One Man's Journey into Stunt Books", by Matthew Honan

[Image from Wikimedia Commons, by User: Rumata. I also really kinda wanted to use this ridiculous one, but it was too blurry.]

Big-box bookstore chain for sale, slightly used

I'm a little late to the news, but the Barnes & Noble chain, apparently not doing so well these days, is up for sale? Holy mackerel. I know that the gleeful schadenfreude I feel isn't exactly the right response to this, because while it's fun to see a competitor tank (particularly a corporate competitor like B&N), this kind of news is generally an indicator of bad biz all around. But I am happy to report that we here at Shakespeare & Co. Brooklyn are doing just fine, thank you very much.

In other book news: the superlative Christopher Hitchens talks about his cancer diagnosis, and Justin Bieber tells his publisher to stop telling people his new book is a memoir.

[Image of the Apocalypse taken from Wikimedia Commons.]

Photograph by Rebecca Miller. Originally found via Booooooom™ forever ago.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Inquire within

It's getting to be that time of year again boys and girls, for us to hang out our shingle and appeal to the literary minded and under- or unemployed in the community. August is company-wide our biggest hiring push of the year, in advance of the Fall college semester, and we've got too much work and not enough hands. Send us your résumé! Or you know, just stop in, say hi, whatever. Knowledge of the (English) alphabet is necessary, but previous bookstore experience is not; having read a book once, at some point in your life, is a plus.

If you're a Brooklyn College student or are just interested in working with us here in Brooklyn, you can contact me directly at davidm@shakespeare-nyc.com. Or if your life
is oriented more Manhattan-wards you can e-mail our general employment address at emp@shakespeare-nyc.com. If you've got any questions, you can e-mail me, or even post them here as comments.

(I really wanted to use this image for our help-wanted advertisement.)

[Image taken from the Flickr feed of Michael Carian, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Diamonds for Penguins

This past Friday was the 75th anniversary of publisher Penguin Books. Happy anniversary guys and gals at Penguin! In celebration, Penguin Books has a Mini Cooper emblazoned with the distinctive Penguin Books logo driving around the country all summer, giving away copies of the most iconic Penguin books to libraries and lit groups. In September, they'll wind up the tour in Shakespeare & Co.'s home town with a big fundraiser for the New York Public Library.

What was the world like when Penguin started publishing? Answer: pretty crappy. In 1935 the world was suffering a pretty severe recession and in North America in particular the Dust Bowl had ruined the livelihoods of many across the continent. And in Europe, some dude named Hitler had just made an announcement that Germany was going to start re-arming itself. Penguin founder Sir Allen Lane had the brainwave to make great literature accessible to the average reader on the street by offering well-made but inexpensive editions through unusual outlets like train stations and magazine stands. He wanted to make books as easy to purchase as cigarettes (although these days a pack of cigarettes will probably run you more than many paperbacks). Traditional publishers at that point all thought he was a crazy person, but his almost immediate success proved them all wrong.

Also, 75th anniversary? What is that, Plutonium? Unobtainium? Turns out it's diamonds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Word of mouth

Hey! First it was New York magazine, and now it's the New York Observer giving Shakespeare & Co. a shout-out for the good prices we pay on used books. The Observer became my favorite New York paper a while back when the legendary Andrew Sarris was reviewing movies for them (which I guess he doesn't do any more?) So, pretty cool for us, right?
Books spied on the train today: Curse of the Wolf Girl, by Martin Millar

Toy Story 3, by Cormac McCarthy

Your favorite dystopian-old-testament writer rewrites Buzz and Woody, as imagined by the Village Voice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Winner and still champion

Boom! New York magazine in its latest issue has published an analysis of New York bookstores that buy and sell used books. They have also, with a random sampling of used books, gauged what you can get for your books at these stores. And guess what? Shakespeare & Co. comes out on top! We need to hang a sign out or something, because I feel like a lot of people don't even know we buy used books. Also, it's worth mentioning that they only sampled our store in the Upper East Side, by Hunter College, which only accepts used books with a student ID card. Not all stores in the company have this policy; we here in Brooklyn, e.g., have no such hard requirement, although we do reserve the right to request one for some buybacks.

Also, what the heck is Book Thug Nation?

Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, Sara Marcus

"Riot Grrrl, by encouraging young girls to turn their anger outward, taught a crucial lesson: Always ask, Is there something wrong not with me but with the world at large? It also forced us to confront a second question: Once we've found our rage, where do we go from there?

While absolutely a history of Riot Grrrl and seminal bands deeply involved with and responsible for the subculture, Girls To The Front is also about every girl ever. It is a credit to this book how uncomfortable I was reading it. Marcus writes, "I reconnected with my own rage while writing this book." And oh God, me too. The galley I read has circulated among five other people in the month's time it's taken to process my impressions and here's why: Marcus never loses sight of what made its message of empowerment and self-expression important to so many. This is a thoughtful, careful exploration of that cultural moment. And it's a taut, visceral read.

It's not just the good times, either. Along with media appropriation (even respectful coverage was reshaped as a knife in the back by editors in the time it took to go to press), Marcus meets headlong the class/cultural/group politics that accumulate to divide participants. It would be easy to refer to that splintering as the end of everything except it's less rise and fall, more creation and commodification. In one form or another, someone is always discovering this message, for the first time, and being empowered by it. And that's a serious legacy which has long deserved a book like this. Coming to bookstores September 28th.

Additional resources:
GIRLS TO THE FRONT FACEBOOK PAGE
Slate Interview with Sara Marcus & Marisa Meltzer
Kathleen Hanna's Blog
Tobi Vail's Blog